I remember the first time we went to Charier, a little village over the river and up the mountain. Our friend Toto suggested we go there to ‘get some good air’- he always takes us places where we can enjoy a good breeze. We arrived in Charier and started to see the Haiti from National Geographic pictures- grass roofed homes, no cars, no electricity- this was the countryside. We walked to the church and Toto introduced us to Pastor Blan. He was smiling and so proud to show us his home and church. His little country church had paper streamers for decoration and rickety wooden benches. He had no pulpit. The church had an outhouse out back and next door was his home; a simple, tin roofed, two room house.
We sat down in a circle with our Haitian friends from the city and Pastor Blan. We began to talk about helping Charier. The pastor just lit up, already grateful at the possibility. There we sat, under the shade of a huge mango tree dreaming about helping this pastor and his village.
That day we learned that the community had no school- they were 15 minutes by car from the city. Since most of the families there could not afford taxis into town the kids did not go to school. The pastor and several locals had attempted to start a simple school in the church, but they had no money for supplies or books and it was not going well.
Our first step in helping Charier was to help fund their school. One of our team members, John Scherer, designed a church bench with a fold-down table behind it to allow the students to have a workspace. It was a great design and those benches are still in use over 15 years later. We bought books and supplies and began to send money to pay the teachers a small amount.
Pastor Blan would start every school day by leading the students in prayer. I remember the pride on his face when we would visit and watch the school day start. One time he humbly asked us for a bicycle. We bought him one and I still have not seen a happier man in my life! To watch this man, at over 50 years old be so ecstatic over a bike, was a moment I will never forget.
Over the years we were able to help more and more- drilling two wells for the community and building a nine room school. When we prayed over the first well Pastor Blan did the first pump. He was like a proud father. Since we built the school, over 15 years ago, we have sent donations every single month to pay the teachers. Students who have since graduated from High School come to us thankful for the opportunity they had to attend that free elementary school in Charier. It is humbling to have a young adult thank you profusely for giving them the chance to simply be a student.
Each time we take a team to Haiti we worship at Pastor Blan’s church. We sit close to each other on precarious wooden benches, sweating but smiling. We smile because it is always a humbling experience to watch the faith of that community. We know what their homes look like, we know a little about the incredible challenges they face, yet there they stand in their best clothing- raising their hands to praise our God. A lesson in gratitude, every single time.
About four years ago Pastor Blan had a stroke that left him paralyzed and wheelchair bound. He remained a steadfast man of faith- and always had that big, signature smile whenever we would visit. Hurricane Matthew devastated his community, and he died just a few days later. I am thankful he is walking around smiling in heaven, but I hate that he had to see his church and home destroyed right before he died. He lived and served for forty years in Charier. He lived a simple life- remember he was thrilled to receive a bicycle. He never owned a car or a retirement account, never remodeled his kitchen or attended college, never traveled more than six hours from his home. Yet, he was an incredible man of God who knew gratitude and faithfulness.
In the coming weeks we hope to repair the church and school in Charier. We also would like to rebuild Pastor Blan’s home- where his wife and adult daughter still live. If you would like to help, please give a gift in honor of Pastor Blan. Checks can be mailed to Hut Outreach PO Box 8851 Toledo, OH 43623 or click here to give online, thank you!